Race at Roxbury CC

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick named Gerald Chertavian, who founded a job training program, to chair the board of troubled Roxbury Community College, which has been plagued by mismanagement and scandal. A Boston “activist” claims only blacks should run a majority-black college. (Only 48 percent of students say they’re black, but there seems to be a lot of decline-to-state students.)

An Iowa community college has paid nearly $14,000 to settle a free-speech lawsuit by a student who was barred from handing out flyers criticizing college funding for a conference on gay youth.

Colleges speed and ‘stack’ job training

Community colleges are accelerating job training and offering “stackable” credentials.

“Everybody wants to be a nurse,” but not everyone has the math and science skills needed, said Ana Sanchez, the “career and college navigator” at Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts. In one or two semesters, students can earn a certificate as a patient care technician or medical admin. They can return to campus to add a higher-level health-care certificate or degree.

Generation jobless

Youth unemployment is a worldwide problem, reports The Economist in  Generation jobless. Yet many employers in countries from the U.S. to Morocco say they can’t find entry-level workers with the right skills.

Poor basic education is only part of the problem.

Countries with the lowest youth jobless rates have a close relationship between education and work. Germany has a long tradition of high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships, which in recent years have helped it reduce youth unemployment despite only modest growth.

Countries with high youth unemployment are short of such links. In France few high-school leavers have any real experience of work. In north Africa universities focus on preparing their students to fill civil-service jobs even as companies complain about the shortage of technical skills. The unemployment rate in Morocco is five times as high for graduates as it is for people with only a primary education.

Employers do much less training on the job.

Many countries are trying to improve vocational schools and develop apprenticeships, reports The Economist.

In 2010 South Korea created a network of vocational “meister” schools—from the German for “master craftsman”—to reduce the country’s shortage of machine operators and plumbers. . . . In Britain some further-education colleges are embracing the principle that the best way to learn is to do: North Hertfordshire College has launched a business venture with Fit4less, a low-cost gym. Bluegrass College in Kentucky and Toyota have created a replica of a car factory, where workers and students go to classes together.

Bluegrass is a community and technical college, so job training is part of the mission. Many community colleges work closely with employers on workforce development.

Via Meadia has more thoughts on practical vs. academic education.

A post-Kodak moment

As Eastman Kodak slid into bankruptcy, a Rochester (New York) community college redesigned its workforce development programs to help the city recover. Once the Big 3 – Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb — employed 60 percent of Rochester’s workforce. That’s down to 5 percent. But smaller companies have spun off from the Big 3. Hot job: optics technician.

No math, no job

Weak math skills disqualify would-be workers, manufacturers say.

High school graduates applying for jobs at Tacoma’s General Plastics Manufacturing have to take a math test. The company makes foam products for the aerospace industry.

Eighteen questions, 30 minutes, and using a calculator is OK.

They are asked how to convert inches to feet, read a tape measure and find the density of a block of foam (mass divided by volume).

One in 10 pass the math test. And it’s not just a problem at General Plastics.

“Manufacturers are willing to train people about the specifics of their machines and technology,” said Linda Nguyen, CEO of Work Force Central, a partnership of government, business, education and community organizations that trains workers in Tacoma and surrounding Pierce County. “But they can’t afford to hire someone who needs to relearn basic math.”

Math teachers know their students will need math knowledge in the real word, writes Darren, a high school math teacher, on Right on the Left Coast. But he’s turned off by the story’s “drooling over Common Core Standards. Many teachers  ”doubt . . .  the so-called cure.”

Having students write about math isn’t a real cure.  Group work isn’t a cure.  Collaboration requires everyone have some background knowledge on which to draw so everyone can contribute.  I wouldn’t mind cutting a few topics out so we had more time to cover the remaining topics more deeply, but to insist on so-called discovery learning is an exceedingly inefficient use of instructional time.

Instead of trying to make math “fun” or “applicable”, perhaps we could consider instilling in students, or insisting on, some perseverance and a sense of responsibility, and maybe even some delayed gratification.

Employers would value those traits too, Darren believes.

Many students who slid through high school without really learning math enroll at community colleges with hopes of training for a job or eventually earning a bachelor’s degree. Placement in remedial math is the single biggest dream killer.

Workforce dropouts rise

Discouraged workers are dropping out of the workforce, masking the true unemployment rate. Only 63.3 percent of working-age adults are in the labor force.  Some enroll in community college — or graduate school. Others apply for disability or take early retirement.

Manufacturers are looking for skilled workers in Minnesota, but technical colleges have a hard time filling all the seats in manufacturing programs, even though pay averages $56,000 a year. Factory work has a stigma.

Iowa colleges focus on retraining, retention

Retraining adults for high-demand jobs and improving graduation rates are the priorities for Iowa community colleges. Half of enrollees earn a credential or transfer in three years. That’s better than most states, but Iowans think theycan do better.

Little college aid for job seekers

Federal college aid overwhelmingly goes to students pursuing degrees, while many seeking vocational certificates don’t qualify for aid. Taxpayers should support people who want to learn high-demand job skills — computer techs and nurse’s aides — not people who want to spend four years studying Shakespeare, argues a workforce researcher.

Students who earn credits for competency, not just “seat time,” will be eligible for federal student aid, if their college’s competency-based program is approved by accreditors.

Rubio: ‘We still need plumbers’

Not everyone needs a four-year degree to be successful, said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “We still need plumbers.” At 41, he just finished paying off his student debt from college and law school — and he had to write a book to do it.

A Republican bill to streamline federal job training programs passed the House last week, but the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act faces strong opposition from congressional Democrats and the Obama administration.

Universities fight 4-year CC degrees

Colorado university leaders are fighting a bill that would let community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in vocational  and technical fields, charging “mission creep.”  Supporters say rural students could earn workforce credentials without relocating. It’s a growing trend with Florida community colleges leading the way.